The house went black, and in an unexpected spiral of yellow lights, the show commenced.
And as the show progressed — a concert Friday night at College Street Music Hall by the five-man rock band The Neighbourhood — the lights continued to play a starring role. It turned out that we saw that night would be as powerful as what we heard.
The evening started with folk tunes from San Francisco musician Kevin Patrick, also known as Field Medic. The mellow combination of Patrick’s husky voice and his rustic guitar accompaniment allowed guests to warm up to the venue with drinks and light conversation, while successfully setting up the contrast to the following rock-band acts.
Following Field Medic’s act, Los Angeles-based HEALTH took the stage and amped up the intensity with ]classic head-banging rock hits, featuring singer Jacob Duzsik, drummer Benjamin Jared Miller, and bassist John Famiglietti. The venue’s lighting coordinator made sure to reflect HEALTH’s intensity with a mesmerizing light show that shifted with the group’s demanding beats. The collective feeling of adrenaline was palpable as audience members waited for the headliner.
The Neighborhoud strode onstage to a crescendo of screams and applause, with the confident, cool-kid swagger of a band that knows its worth. Formed in 2011, it marks its seventh year as one of the most celebrated alternative groups to date. The NBHD has appeared at music festivals including Coachella and televised performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Their breakthrough hit “Sweater Weather” topped the Billboard charts in 2013 as the number one alternative song.
Lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford, flanked by guitarists Jeremy Freedman and Zach Abels, hit the opening riffs of the first song to a cool wash of blue lights. Bassist Mikey Margott and drummer Brandon Alexander Fried established the rhythmic groundworks for every song, showing off the group’s well practiced collaboration and collective comfort on stage.
The audience belted the lyrics to The NBHD’s tracks from the latest album, The Neighbourhood, and swayed to the nostalgic beat of some of the older numbers. The NBHD’s electrifying stage presence allowed the audience to live in the moment; troubles didn’t matter anymore.
As lead vocalist and of the group, Rutherford was the main eye-catcher of the night, starting with a conservative blazer and “I Heart NY” T-shirt. As the program eased into its hard-hitting numbers, it didn’t take long for the lead singer to playfully strip his top to an uproar from the audience, revealing a constellation of tattoos barely visible against the wash of red lights heating up the stage.
The perfectly coordinated music and lights worked in harmony with each other and allowed for a seamless crossfade between songs, featuring warm to cool-toned cues and a blackout transition for a more dramatic effect. The NBHD filtered through the haze and didn’t leave a single area of the stage untouched.
A thick sea of fist-pumping hands and cell phone screens flowed through the audience, nearly obscuring Rutherford’s lean silhouette as he threw his head back in a moment of musical surrender, allowing the beat to consume the room.
The night continued as the band weaved its way through a series of hard edged songs and sensual ballads to a backdrop of iridescent lights, creating a fugue of emotions and associated sounds.
The group closed the set with the hit “Sweater Weather,” lending the show some notable familiarity, and taking long-time fans and one-off listeners alike back to late night memories of the summer of 2013.
“Let’s have an adventure, head in the clouds but my gravity centered,” Rutherford cooed, iconic statements of rebellious teenage years.
Rutherford held the audience in the palm of his hands with sensual lyrics like “Touch my neck and I’ll touch yours” working in concert with the hazy red lights, creating a mesmerizing ambience.
After the group his the final chord of the night, concert-goers streamed out onto College Street. The audience’s voices were shot and legs sore from jumping—with the sense that they’d gladly do it all over again.